The delay of the 2018 turkey season until April 7 has no doubt been an agonizing wait for members of the Tenth Legion, but now this elite group of hunters are in action. I suspect many got things started on March 30 with the opening of the youth weekend. My 7-year-old grandson worked the squirrels over in February, and is ready to be in the turkey blind on that day.
Yes, that’s right — for the first time in the lifetime of this author there is no turkey hunting in Louisiana in March. Of course, I grew up hunting in North Louisiana in the 60s and there were no turkeys to hunt in those days. LDWF was trying to restock birds in that area but for various reasons, the restocking effort was not working.
For the most part, the 2017 deer season is over, although some DMAP cooperators in the Tier 1 classification can still hunt a couple of weeks in February. For Area 1 and 6 hunters, this could still give you time to connect with a deer, and perhaps even that elusive trophy. February is the month for rabbit hunters, and no doubt the hounds are out and about chasing bunnies. Years ago we did a rabbit study with LSU, and we already knew rabbits pretty much breed year-round. But February, March and April were the months that all the female rabbits we collected (we collected about 15 rabbits every month) were either pregnant or lactating. The management areas are open for small game hunting, so public land hunters still have good opportunity to be out in the woods and fields.
No doubt the excitement in the deer hunting fraternity soared when news broke on the big non-typical arrowed by Frank Sullivan in October. The buck will easily make the Pope and Young record book, and depending on how the typical frame scores, might surpass the state record for archery-killed non-typicals. This buck was one of those pre-rut bucks that had developed a distinct feeding pattern, which is ideal for a bowhunter.
The key to a good deer management program is good habitat — plain and simple. The research that has been done measuring the impacts of good deer habitat is crystal clear on the subject: Good habitat provides the nutrition needed for optimal body growth and antler development.
Use the Sportsman 2017 rut prediction to start planning your hunts for this season. It might also help to look at the long range weather forecast and see when the cold fronts are predicted to roll in.
Many years ago, in the mid-70s, there was an article in a popular hunting magazine that was titled “The Thundering Herd.” Basically it was about exploding deer numbers in most of the states in the southeast. Following deer restocking and limited bucks-only hunting along with improved habitat conditions, deer populations began to expand and numbers increased dramatically. Hunters had done a good job of protecting does and now their numbers were increasing in most states, including the Bayou State.
Harvest data produced by the LDWF DMAP program shows that hunters are killing more adult bucks than yearling (1 ½ year) bucks. Data from the Quality Deer Management Association also shows this is true in most of the southeast. The management concept of let them go and let them grow has caught on in the southeast. Jimmy Ernst, LDWF DMAP Coordinator, says that today’s hunters are looking for bigger bucks. But an older buck is not necessarily a big buck. For the most part any adult buck on good habitat should have a larger rack than the yearling buck with its first rack. If habitat conditions are poor and deer numbers are above carrying capacity the rack of an adult buck may not be the quality that a hunter is hunting for.